Sep 222014
 

San Diego Restaurant Week is upon us again! From September 21 through 26, you can enjoy a two-course lunch or three-course dinner at over 200 restaurants in San Diego, with lunch priced at $10, $15, or $20, and dinner priced at $25, $35, and $45. S and I have visited several restaurants during SDRW over the past few years, and this year, we were fortunate enough to be invited to try out Solare Ristorante, a cute little Italian restaurant in Liberty Station.

Solare Ristorante 

Solare is offering a $20 lunch and $35 dinner, with some additional items that you can add on for extra. S and I love Italian food, so we were pretty excited to visit.

Blushing Lady martini

Blushing Lady martini [$9]

I chose a martini, per our waiter’s recommendation. This is made with vodka and grapefruit and pomegranate juices, with a grapefruit rind. S said that it tasted like juice, but I enjoyed it, hehe.

Housemade focaccia

House-made focaccia

Shortly after being seated, we got a bowl of house-made focaccia bread, along with olive oil for dipping. S loved this focaccia and said that it was full of umami. He has never, ever made such a “foodie” comment before so I am documenting this historic moment here! The bread was indeed quite good, and we ate way too many pieces of it before realizing that we had a big meal ahead of us.

There were four items in the “Options for Sharing” section of the menu, which were basically little appetizers or sides that you could add on for an extra charge. S and I decided to try a couple of them, since they sounded pretty good!

Kobe Meatballs

Kobe Meatballs: vintage hand-made American Kobe beef meatballs, served with sautéed rainbow chard and pecorino Crotonese [$14] 

The Kobe meatballs were really yummy and flavorful – I loved the melted pecorino on top, and the sauce that accompanied it – especially the sautéed rainbow chard. It was quite an elevated version of the classic meatball with tomato sauce. 

Arancini

Arancini: classic Sicilian crispy rice balls with beef, pork, and veal ragù, sweet peas, and mozzarella [$9]

Arancini inside

Arancini inside

The best way that I can describe arancini is like a hush puppy, but with rice instead of cornmeal. I’ve never had it before and loved it here! I really enjoyed the flavor of the crispy exterior, which was like toasted rice. I could have eaten all of these without the accompanying ragù – the sauce was good, but the rice balls were truly the star. After eating one, I told S that I like these even more than hush puppies, and he was quite impressed since he knows how much I adore hush puppies, haha.

After those two “snacks,” our appetizers arrived…

Zuppa di Funghi

Zuppa di Funghi – Mushroom bisque: maitake, shiitake, and porcini mushrooms infused with thyme and served with black truffle butter

I was initially worried that S wouldn’t like the soup, since it had shiitake mushrooms in it, but he ended up loving it. I guess the creaminess of the bisque and the truffle butter offset the shiitake taste that he doesn’t like. Also, I’m guessing that the restaurant used fresh instead of dried shiitake, which actually has a pretty different taste. Anyway, we liked this soup a lot – but we’re easy to please, as long as there’s truffles, haha.

Burrata e Prugne

Burrata e Prugne: Gioia cheese burrata served with Regier Family Farms plums, grilled asparagus, house-made balsamic pearls, and fresh basil

Burrata e Prugne

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Sep 192014
 

Recently, my good friend Y celebrated her birthday at Onami Seafood Buffet & BBQ. She and her boyfriend are always on the hunt for good deals for food, and her boyfriend loves all-you-can-eat places! S and I have never been to Onami before, so we were quite curious about what the place would be like.

Onami Seafood Buffet & BBQ 

The restaurant is located inside the Westfield Mission Valley mall, near the Macy’s Home Store and food court.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get very many good photos of the buffet lines – most of them turned out quite blurry. (Sadface.) So, I’ll just share pictures of S’s and my plates:

Assorted sushi, sashimi, nigiri

Assorted sushi, sashimi, nigiri

My friends like this place because of the variety of sashimi and nigiri. We were initially a bit wary of eating raw fish at a buffet, but it turned out not too bad. The salmon was the freshest, out of all the sashimi. I also liked the salmon skin nigiri and went back for a couple more of that later in the evening. 

More sushi

More sushi 

I’m not sure what’s at the back of this plate… Looks a bit like chicken teriyaki, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get that. The seaweed salad was not bad.

Cold soba noodles

Cold soba noodles 

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Sep 172014
 

A couple of Saturdays ago, my friend and I went to the Little Italy farmer’s market – it’s been rated as one of the best farmer’s markets in San Diego, and I LOVE farmer’s markets so I was looking forward to checking it out.

This post will be a lot of photos… Random things that I found at the market, people that I thought were interesting. It was my day to practice taking “outdoor” photos!

Little Italy Mercato 

This farmer’s market is huge – it spans four blocks in the Little Italy neighborhood (actually, that might be pretty much the entire neighborhood…). We had to circle around a bit for parking, but were lucky to get a meter spot with 30 minutes left! Score!

One of the first things that caught our eyes was this seafood stand:

Poppa's Fresh Fish 

Oysters and SEA URCHIN! Sea urchin is seriously one of my favorite foods – I love the briny flavor and creamy texture. A and I decided to share one.

Live Sea Urchin 

Poppa's Fresh Fish stand 

This awesome lady was cracking open and cleaning sea urchins. We stood to one side and watched her work with formidable efficiency!

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

There’s our sea urchin! It was so, so good – there’s just nothing like fresh sea urchin. I briefly debated getting another one before deciding that there are tons of other things to eat. (Later on, we also saw several other stands offering fresh sea urchin. I didn’t compare prices or quality, but I’m assuming they’d be pretty similar since they all came from La Jolla.)

Mikolich Family Honey

Mikolich Family Honey

Mikolich Family Honey 

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Sep 152014
 

Carnitas’ Snack Shack is one of my favorite restaurants in San Diego – they certainly serve up some really delicious sandwiches and pork dishes. However, their North Park location is quite small and gets really crowded – S and I have been there at 10PM and still had to wait at least 20 minutes to order! So, when I heard that they were planning a second location in Del Mar, I was quite excited.

Carnitas' Snack Shack 

The Del Mar store took over the space formerly occupied by The Counter. (By the way, I heard recently that many locations of The Counter have been closing… I guess the mini chain isn’t doing so well?) The restaurant space has been changed up quite a bit – the front entrance is now on the side, and there’s a patio seating area.

Mural 

I thought this wall art was pretty cute, although having cute pigs serving pork sandwiches is sort of morbid when you think about it… haha.

You still order at the counter when you enter the restaurant, and the food will be brought out to you. There was plenty of seating, both inside the restaurant and out on the patio when we visited for lunch on a Sunday. In the middle of the restaurant is a long communal table, and there were booths all around. 

We decided to try the Triple Threat sandwich here – we’ve had it before on our first visit, and S had thought that it was a tad too salty. But since it’s such a favorite among customers, he wanted to give it another shot. 

Triple Threat Pork Sandwich

Triple Threat Pork Sandwich: pork loin schnitzel, pulled pork, bacon, pepperoncini relish, shack aioli [$9.50]

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Sep 072014
 

Supernatural Sandwiches has been on my radar for quite some time, especially with so many features on Eater and Zagat, as well as other blogs. They had been a farmer’s market stand in Hillcrest for a while before opening a brick-and-mortar shop on Miramar Rd. However, initially the shop’s hours were only open Monday to Fridays, so it was a while before S and I got a chance to visit. On a recent Friday, S and I, along with one of our other friends, went to check it out for lunch since our bosses were out of town, hehe.

Supernatural Sandwiches 

The interior is pretty crowded. There’s a walk-up line, seats along the wall at a counter, and a few tables.

P1060062-2 

There are the “Supernatural 7″, which are seafood-based sandwiches, and the “Sinister 7″, which feature more meat. I thought it was funny that this place had such a strong comics theme.

I was immediately drawn to the Neptune, which has diver scallops and bacon.

Neptune

Neptune: sauteed sweet local scallops, crispy smoked bacon, buttery toasted bun, spicy pyro aioli, zesty enchanted sauce, fresh local greens [$9.75]

The scallops were quite fresh and sweet, and I thought that the smoky and salty bacon paired quite well with them. I did think that there was a little bit too much sauce, though, which overpowered the delicate scallop flavor a bit. The bun was quite buttery and soft, which was really nice. My friend thought that the bacon was a bit too salty, but S and I actually liked it.

Cthulu

Cthulu: lobster roll with umami butter [$15] 

We also shared a lobster roll (well, S didn’t partake since he doesn’t eat crustaceans). I was excited about it because it’s been a long time since I’ve had a lobster roll… maybe a few years! I liked this one because the lobster flavor was prominent, with just enough flavor from the butter. My friend told me that it’s rare to see so much lobster claw meat in San Diego, since on the West Coast, lobsters tend to have more tail meat than claw. She thought that this was just okay, though… Then again, her last lobster roll was from the famous Luke’s Lobster in NYC, haha.

Cthulu 

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Sep 052014
 

S and I were craving Asian food but wanted to try something new… Which is actually sort of a challenge for us because we’ve actually been to quite a few of the restaurants on Convoy (at least, the highly rated and recommended ones). I remembered one of my friends telling me that Red Moon Noodle House, located in the Tapioca Express/Crab Hut plaza, was pretty good, so we decided to try it out.

Red Moon Noodle House 

Above photo taken with my phone… before I realized that I had my camera on me. Haha.

The reason we wanted to try out this place is that my friend recommended their soup dumplings, or xiaolongbao (XLB). For some reason, it’s a “secret” menu item, but it’s actually a pretty popular item. Not sure why they purposefully omit it from the menu.

Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao)

Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao) [$5.99]

Soup Dumplings (Xiaolongbao) 

So, how were they? Actually not too bad. Can’t compare with the famous Din Tai Fung’s XLB – the wrapper isn’t as thin, and there wasn’t as much soup – but it was still pretty darn tasty. The flavor of the pork filling and the soup were quite good, and the skin stayed pleasantly soft yet “taut”. 

Soup Dumpling

At $5.99 for six, the price isn’t too bad. The size of each dumpling is slightly larger than other places (namely, DTF).

Singapore Style Noodles [$8.50]

Singapore Style Noodles [$8.50]

I heard good reviews about the Singapore style noodles, which are thin rice noodles stir-fried with curry sauce together with assorted sliced meats and vegetables. We were both quite surprised to see it arrive as an omelette, with the noodles wrapped inside!

Singapore Style Noodles

Singapore Style Noodles

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Sep 012014
 

As promised last week, here’s Part 2 of my recap of DiningOut SD’s 10th Anniversary Party, held at The Headquarters at Seaport District! I started off the evening with drinks and tacos from Puesto, and moved on to the courtyard, where several other restaurants and shops had booths set up with samples.

The first one we came across immediately captured my attention – a table full of desserts from Seasons 52!

Seasons 52 desserts

Seasons 52 desserts

I’ve dined at Seasons 52 once, but didn’t get the desserts. They looked so adorable in the shotglasses!

Ghiradelli Chocolate S'more

Ghiradelli Chocolate S’more

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Mocha Macchiato

Mocha Macchiato

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon

J and I decided not to be overly gluttonous, so each of us chose one of the dessert shots. He immediately went for the Red Velvet, which was quite good (although I didn’t like the raspberry). I had a hard time deciding between, well, pretty much everything, but in the end, the toasted meringue atop the Meyer Lemon cake won me over. The lemon cream was smooth, bright, and not overly sweet, and the meringue added a lighter texture to the whole “dessert shot.” I would definitely order this again in a flash!

We moved on to the next table – Venissimo. I love this cheese shop and was excited to try out their samples!

Venissimo owner

Venissimo owner

The owner himself (I didn’t quite catch his name) was manning the station. There were several platters of cheese samples and tartlets!

DSC_4678 

England Farmhouse Cheddar, Mini Apples in Calvados

Farmhouse Cheddar (England), Mini Apples in Calvados

loved these mini apples! I think soaking them in Calvados (an apple brandy) intensified the flavor 100 times! The Farmhouse Cheddar paired nicely with the apple. 

Abbaye de Belloc (France), Lychees in Passion Fruit Liquor

Abbaye de Belloc (France), Lychees in Passion Fruit Liquor

We circled back to Venissimo a little bit later, and they had a different cheese for sampling – the Abbaye de Belloc, which is a rich and creamy sheep’s milk cheese. I’m not a fan of lychee, though, so I’m not sure how the pairing was.

I’ve saved the best offerings from Venissimo for last, though… these little mini tarts!

Gorgonzola Dolce with Lavender Confit

Gorgonzola Dolce with Lavender Confit

Bucherondin , Hazelnut-Cacao Nut Butter, Honey-Almond Cherry Jam

Bucherondin , Hazelnut-Cacao Nut Butter, Honey-Almond Cherry Jam

The Gorgonzola dolce one was so good – well, if you’re a fan of stinky cheese. I thought that the pungent cheese was perfectly offset by the lavender confit, and the texture was so luscious and creamy. I totally went back for 2 more of them. The other tartlet was on the sweeter side, made with Bucherondin, which was a mild goat cheese with a brie-like texture. Both of these were really yummy, but oh man, that Gorgonzola. (S is probably feeling really relieved now to have been out of town… he can’t stand stinky cheeses, haha.)

Venissimo selections!

Venissimo selections!

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Aug 292014
 

Recently, I was invited to attend DiningOut San Diego‘s 10th Anniversary celebration party! It sounded like a super fun event, held at The Headquarters at Seaport District. Unfortunately, S was out of town that day, so I brought along my food-loving friend, J. He took a bunch of pictures throughout the event – and they turned out gorgeous (I was too busy eating to pay much attention to pictures…)! He was kind enough to let me use some of them for this post. Thanks, J!

There were so many pictures from this event that I decided to split this recap into two posts. 

The Headquarters at Seaport District

We arrived around 6PM to see all the tables set up and ready in the courtyard.

DSC_4606

There was a VIP hour from 6-7PM, with margaritas and tacos on Puesto’s patio. This post will be mostly about Puesto’s offerings!

DSC_4650

DSC_4615

Chips, Ceviche, Salsa

Chips, Ceviche, Salsa

Ceviche

Ceviche

In addition to the salsa and ceviche, there was also some guacamole. I was hoping that it’d be the famous crab guacamole (I know, I’m allergic, but I just wanted a tiny bit to taste!), but it was just the regular, haha. The ceviche was pretty good, not sure which type of fish, but it was bright and flavorful.

There were also margaritas being passed around, so I snagged one…

Margarita

Margarita

The margarita was made with Maestro Dobel tequila, one of the sponsors of the event. It was quite delicious!

DSC_4616 

Of course, copies of DiningOut SD were everywhere! I took a copy home to peruse.

There was also an assortment of Puesto’s famed tacos that were being passed around by some awesome servers! I tried several ones, including the Filet Mignon, Zucchini Blossom & Cactus, and Chicken Verde.

Filet Mignon tacos

Filet Mignon tacos

Zucchini Blossom & Cactus tacos

Zucchini Blossom & Cactus tacos

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Aug 252014
 

Santouka is a ramen shop that’s found in pretty much every Mitsuwa Marketplace, including the one in San Diego. (I’ve mentioned this before, but SD’s Mitsuwa is so small compared to the ones in Torrance and Costa Mesa! Sadface. Well, at least we do have Santouka.) I’ve had the ramen here several times already, but never got around to posting about it… so here’s a recap of our latest visit.

Santouka

It’s been a while since S and I have had a ramen craving… I guess there was a period of time last year when we had ramen almost every week, so this was our first ramen in months.

Santouka - Tokusen Toroniku Ramen Combo

Tokusen Toroniku Ramen Combo with Cha-shu Rice Bowl

We decided to share a combination, which is your choice of ramen with a rice bowl. The options for ramen are: Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso (soybean paste), and Tokusen Toroniku (“choice pork”). The options for the rice bowls are: Negi (green onion), Ikura (salmon roe), Natto (fermented soybean), and Cha-shu. We picked the Tokusen Toroniku ramen with Cha-shu rice.

Santouka - Tokusen Toroniku Ramen

Tokusen Toroniku Ramen

Santouka - Tokusen Toroniku Ramen

Tokusen Toroniku Ramen

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Aug 182014
 

Well, I recently found out that one of my good friends is semi-obsessed with chicken wings… as in, she’d eat them everyday for lunch if she could (or something like that, haha). So, after discovering this, we decided to go to Dirty Birds in Pacific Beach sometime. Actually, she was with me on my first visit to Dirty Birds, which left me with generally favorable impressions.

Dirty Birds

We decided on a late Tuesday night dinner, after an evening of badminton/exercise, with hopes that it wouldn’t be super crowded by 10PM. Unfortunately, the place was still quite busy – I guess the Tuesday all-day happy hour (half price wings and domestic pitchers) is too good of a deal for lots of people.

Dirty Birds

We ended up waiting about 20 minutes and snagged a row of seats by the window counter before we could get an actual table. There were four of us, which made conversation somewhat awkward – especially considering that the place was pretty loud.

No one was interested in a domestic pitcher (as in, Coors Light), but my 3 dining companions all ordered a draft to drink…

Dirty Birds

I can’t remember what the dark beer was, but the one on the right is the Green Flash 30th St, which I really liked. Not pictured is T’s Stella Cidre – I’m not a big fan of ciders, so I guess I wasn’t interested in photographing it… haha.

We ordered an appetizer to share, the loaded tater tots…

Dirty Birds - Loaded Tots with Pulled Pork

Loaded Tots with Pulled Pork [$8]

I also ordered the exact same thing during my last visit – the tater tots are super crispy, and topped with a hard-to-fail combo of cheese, barbecue sauce, and pulled pork (you can also choose sliced steak or diced bacon for the meat). If you love tater tots, this is a must-try here.

For the wings, S, A, and I decided to share twenty pieces, which are normally $22, but since it was Tuesday, cost only $11!

Dirty Birds - Lemon Pepper & Fireball wings

Lemon Pepper & Fireball wings

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